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Happy Birthday, NolaVie: Meet the press

We’re toddlers now.

NolaVie turns 2 today, and while we’re still in our formative stages, we have a lot to show after those early developmental years. 

NolaVie published its first story on Feb. 21, 2011, an experiment in non-profit cultural news-gathering unlike anything else we could find at the time on the Internet. Backed by a coterie of influential believers in the form of major New Orleans cultural partners (please take a look and thank them all here), we launched a site dedicated to covering the quirky, unique things that make the city so appealing.

Now, at year 2, we are headed toward our 1500th story, penned by more than 100 writers. Our audience spans the globe, which just goes to show that if you write authentically about New Orleans, the world will tune in.

So just who is the “we” at NolaVie? A group of writers, thinkers, photographers, artists, essayists, poets, musicians and dilettantes (that would be me) who have one thing (and probably only one thing) in common: We love New Orleans.

NolaVie contributors cross the spectrum in age, race, hobbies, finances, food likes, right brain/left brain thinking, choice of transportation and daily attire. Some write weekly (bless them); others drop in occasionally or have contributed only once or twice. We don’t (yet) pay our writers, but do feed and water them liberally at editorial meetings.

While it would be impossible here to feature all who have contributed to NolaVie in the past two years, we did think you might like to know a little bit about some who write frequently and eloquently in this space. These are just a few of the talented and creative people who have made NolaVie a success. We love them, and know that you will, too.

Sharon Litwin, NolaVie co-founder, grew up in London, still has a trace of a veddy British accent in her weekly WWNO-FM radio broadcasts, and carries a life-sized cardboard cutout of Queen Elizabeth with her to select events. A grande dame of the local non-profit scene (a former WYES, TP, NOMA and LPO bigwig), she was most recently hot on the trail of info about the upcoming Buku rap music fest.

Blake Bertuccelli, a sort of NolaVie director emeritus, juggled site creation with learning ancient Estruscan (he proved proficient at both). A writer, artist and filmmaker (see Cinema Reset), he’s newly interested in Louisiana salt domes. He’s one of the New Orleans Carnival floatmaking Bertuccellis, by the way; family members speak loudly to one another in fluent Italian on their cell phones.

NolaVie associate editor Anna Shults, who earns a master’s degree from Tulane this spring, likes books, creative writing, and research (check out her history of the daiquiri). She’s working her way through school with three jobs, so it’s not surprising that she can polish off a piece like Letter to the Northeast (4,206 Facebook likes) in an hour. She also edits the popular weekly NolaVie newsletter, which you can sign up for at the top of the page here.

You might call Bettye Anding our senior editor, since she's a septuagenarian and has resumed writing a column called Silver Threads that she started as the Living section editor at the TP. Bettye was also my boss for almost three decades, so she taught me everything I know. She's a born raconteur, has a million (funny) tales to tell, and is nowhere near as intimidating as her picture.

Faster food at Tokyo's premier McDonald's

Keith Marshall actually got it when I asked him to write an irreverent column about running a B&B on a bayou. I swear he makes up half the things he recounts (he swears not), and his emails are every bit as witty as his articles (who else would regularly make puns in French?). You know he's smart because he was a Rhodes Scholar, but he looks at the world with a truly rarefied view -- as in his recent series on McDonald's around the world. His newest BFF? Renowned director Robert Wilson, who invited him to Italy after reading his NolaVie review of Zinnias. About that French puns thing? Just read his own accompanying anniversary story.

Brett Will Taylor wandered into our sights after submitting a piece on a New Orleans moment experienced shortly after he moved to town from Boston. We realized immediately that he's a master at capturing magical New Orleans moments, as he has proved ever since in his immensely popular weekly column Love: NOLA (which can also now be heard on air at WWNO). We think there's something in his water ... or gin. Check out BWT's 10 Things You Learn from Living in New Orleans. In his day job, BWT is a shaman, which means his daily travels take him not only around the magic of New Orleans, but also the wonders of  The Universe.

Writer and film producer Brian Friedman -- do catch his movie, The King of New Orleans, out this spring -- is a master interviewer, turning conversations into wry and articulate profiles that capture the essence of New Orleans' colorful citizenry. Lately, he's turned to Hollywood South for inspiration, and his interviews with grips and set designers and talent scouts can also be heard on WWNO. Oh, yeah, the former high-school cager is  also a basketball coach.

Engineer Matt Hinson is one of those right-brained (or do I mean left-brained?) people who never thought they'd be pushing prose. As Matt himself puts it, "Through a humblingly surreal chain of increasingly unexpected occurrences, I have the fortune of being inspired by the staff members at NolaVie to venture down a long avoided, nearly forgotten, creative path as a photo-journalist." Like many NolaVie writers, Matt's passion -- in his case, cycling -- spurred him into creative endeavors. Now he covers the cycling community for NolaVie.

Writer Rachael Kostelec is a self-described "comedienne, talk radio show host and blogger living and loving New Orleans." Her innate joie de vie was not dampened by a recent diagnosis of Celiac Disease -- she simply headed out to Harahan to find gluten-free king cake.

Lake Pontchartrain revelers, Aug. 28, 2012, by Jason Kruppa

Professional photographer Jason Kruppa shares his behind-the-lens perspective with NolaVie readers. His amazing fashion shoots are almost as epic as his sense of humor (read his website bio to see what I mean). He's also promised to take new head shots of all the NolaVie writers, so we make sure his wine glass is filled often at editorial meetings.

NOLA native Adriana Lopez keeps up with the energetic post-Katrina entrepreneurial beat -- and is as enterprising as her subjects. When New Orleans didn't make the Under 30 CEO 2011 finalists of top cities for young entrepreneurs, she started a write-in campaign to add us to the list. And New Orleans won.

Musician Evan Christopher plays gigs around the world. So it's not surprising to find a column sent from Brussels or Somaliland waiting in my in-box. What is surprising is that Evan, who could easily rest on his virtuoso musical laurels, has taken up the banner for the New Orleans music community with his weekly Riffing on the Tradition. He's tackled fair pay for play, inequities in enforcement of noise ordinances for music venues and helped give local musicians a voice through The Music & Culture Coalition of New Orleans. And when Evan wants a quote or to ask a question, he goes for it: He'll call up George Wein or drop a line to Warren Buffet. And gets an answer every time. 

NOLA newcomer Emily Carrere is discovering a lot to love in the Big Easy. And the former Paris resident and fashionista is sharing it with New Orleanians. Emily writes a weekly column that focuses on one must-have, to-die-for thing she's found in the city, from a great hat to a divine quiche. She's a lawyer in her other life, but that's not nearly as fun, is it?

Food Porn Friday by Scott Gold: Bacon sundae

Food writer, blogger and book author (Shameless Carnivore) Scott Gold says he's a lot like Justice Potter Stewart, who famously said that pornography is hard to define, "but I know it when I see it." So does Scott -- food porn, that is, which he spotlights in some mouth-watering way each Friday. His photographs are as richly rendered as his descriptions of New Orleans dishes.

Like so many young professionals who have hit town since Katrina, recent NOLA transplant Joey Albanese is reinventing himself. Yes, he's had a quarter-life crisis -- why wait until 50? -- and writes thoughtfully and penetratingly about life as a twentysomething in the Big Easy.

A native daughter of NOLA returned after 30 years, Carol Pulitzer finds a story in every doorway; so many stories, so little time. I like to tell Carol that she tends to go sideways into a story. She doesn't know quite how to take that, but what I mean is that her artistic, quirky and creative approach inevitably renders the unexpected. To our advantage. And how could you not cherish a writer who illustrates her own stories?

There are many other talented writers who continue to make NolaVie a one-of-a-kind New Orleans destination. Like Ned Cheever, a Texan who loves New Orleans but hasn't written too much lately because he's learning to play Cajun tunes on a button accordion (I swore not to publish the video). And Glen Abbott, who roams the country on a motorcyle. Or Meredith Acocella, who scouts out enticing entertainment spots for the under-30 crowd.

Join the crowd; we're an inclusive set. NolaVie curates submissions, and we'd love to hear what you have to say.

It promises to be an entertaining third year.

Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie.

Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]